on growing big but never growing up.

My Dearest Gramma Addie,

There are a lot of things in this world you don’t like. Candy, your curly hair, loud noises, balloons, loud laughter, the neighbor boy claiming he’s a vampire, spaghetti squash and Greek food to name a few. While you’ll try anything once (mostly because I force you to) it’s very rare that you’ll actually take to it, be it sheer force of will (which as my daughter I’m not surprised, the stubborn is strong in us.) or the fact that you are just that hard to please.

I gave birth to an elderly woman.

34 weeks.

Take for example your first trip ice skating this past Saturday. Your dad and I were ready for you to try once, throw a little fit, maybe force you around the rink once and demand to leave within 20 minutes. Expectations on our end? Low. An hour and a half and at least a dozen trips around the rink later? You bet I left with a flyer on ice skating lessons. You were so happy out there, I’m not sure how much the actual skating had to do with it. You had your dad’s undivided attention as he held you up by the scruff of your neck so you didn’t crack your head open. You also had my undivided attention as I froze from the sidelines. Amazed that your tiny little body that was inside me at one time was skating around the rink so fast your scruff holding father could barely keep up with you.

I’ve been thinking a lot about how much is going to change over the next month. You’re no longer going to be an only. Or a one. You’re going to be part of a pair. I’ve watched you over the last eight months grow into a big sister. Today at church you washed your hands and then offered your paper towel to a little girl who couldn’t reach. Last week you climbed into Miss Ami’s car to help Eden get buckled. And while we were in Chicago? You played peek a boo from the back seat with baby Viola until she was nearly gasping between giggles. I wish I could tell you how it feels to watch you grow up, and yet want so badly to keep you my little girl forever. The little girl that I have spent nearly every day of the last seven years with.

It’s pride and warmth and heartache all at once.

addie and i found a baby to borrow.

This morning I snuggled your little warm pajama covered body and buried my face in your curls. I wish I could hold onto you forever. Perfectly innocent, smelling of syrup and cookies. I’ve debated every morning for the last week if I should really take you to school because every time you get off the bus you come home to me older, and there’s only so many hours left before we three are four. You’re growing up. And in the next month you’re going to be doing a lot more growing up.

Some of it is going to be hard. A lot of it is going to be magical.

But I want you to know right now, in this very moment. Your are my baby girl, you always have been and always will be.

the moosh.

You are my heart.

an open letter to medical professionals.

Dear doctors who have been/will be treating treating me,

Please stop being so surprised when you touch, measure, feel, weigh, look at or talk to me. Look, girls don’t take kindly to surprised comments let alone medical observations. I know that when I answer the door and my friend says “Whoa, bad day?” that I’ve looked better. I know that when Cody comes home and says “Oof, you’re not doing so well are you?” I most certainly resemble a warm shade of death. So when I lie down on your medical table with my giant belly exposed and you mutter something about “Whoa! Well…” with your eyebrows raised as you turn and scribble something down in my chart?

Keep your expressions to yourself buddy.

Unless you’re going to finish that sentence with “Whoa…well you’re the most lovely pregnant lady I’ve ever had the pleasure of treating” I don’t want to hear it. Same goes for those weird questions like, “Sooo, do big heads run in your family?” I can only assume that I’ve suddenly become that golden goose for that medical study you’ve been working on for so long.

And I swear, if I get in that delivery room with my glory spread for this baby to come into the world and someone dares to utter any level of “Whoa!” in my general direction. I’m going to fight you. Or aim my placenta at you. Whatever.

Sincerely,

Casey

34 weeks.

34 weeks

34 weeks. 34 weeks. 34 weeks.

6 weeks.

Or less.

Holy crap.

hey, judgies, keep your judginess to yourself or my grenade wielding baby will *ruin* your day.

Being pregnant and/or having a new baby puts a giant (GIANT) “PLEASE! JUDGE ME OPENLY!” sign on your forehead. And the backside of your birthing hips. And across your enormous pregnancy boobs. There also seems to be a flashing neon sign that radiates from your entire existence.

Why do you have a crib bumper?

She’ll have bad teeth if you use a pacifier.

In my day we would have never worn maternity clothes like that.

If you even so much as dip your toe in that hot tub your going to boil your baby.

Why are you taking medicine?

Why are you eating that?

You’ll be breastfeeding won’t you?

Why aren’t you breastfeeding?

Your baby will be fat if you use formula.

Don’t hold that baby too much, you’ll spoil it.

Your baby looks hot.

Your baby is going to freeze.

Your baby is hungry.

Your baby is tired.

You look tired.

You know it wouldn’t hurt to brush your hair.

Did you know you have stains on your shirt?

You’re not supposed to carry babies in slings.

Babies who spend too much time in strollers cry more.

Did you know your baby has a grenade?

WHY DON’T YOU LOVE YOUR BABY?

I just learned today that not only am I going to be suffering from premature cleavage wrinkles, my baby is also going to be born green and with a third eye because I didn’t spend $70 on a blanket. That’s a lot to handle before 9 am.

I want so desperately for my boobs to work this time around. I was so emaciated by the time I delivered Addie my body was not going to be giving up any more calories to sustain anything or anyone else but myself. Addie was formula fed after three long weeks of nursing, bottle feeding, pumping, brewers yeast, supplemental nursers, an almost devastating brush with Reglan and a La Leche league member who caused me to throw a phone.

Addie is not fat, she has no food allergies, no seasonal allergies, no asthma, she has had two ear infections in her entire life and aside from the weird little barfing thing she has? She rarely gets sick. She can count to 100 three different ways, can read better than I could at 8, has the fine motor skills of a surgeon and the coordination of a Manchester United goalie. (More or less, she gets a little clumsy during growth spurts, let’s be honest.)

This is a kid who was not only formula fed but was sustained through pregnancy on Gatorade, macaroni and cheese and IV’s. AND! She had a crib bumper.

I’ve done the best I could so far with that little kid and she’s turned out swell.

I think we’re all trying to do the best we can with these little lives that have been entrusted to us.

I have to have faith that my instinct with this next one is better than Nosy Nancy’s observations of what I’m supposedly doing wrong.

Stress.

Besides, Nancy probably doesn’t even realize how awesome babies look with grenades.

sublime reality.

Five years is a long time to wait for a baby.

A really long time.

When you compare five years to 40 weeks…pregnancy flies by.

When you’re trying to have a baby for any amount of time, let alone years, you already live your life in weeks.

Week one: Period.

Week two: Ovulation and copulation.

Week three: Waaaaaiiiitttiiinnngggg.

Week four: Stick peeing.

Back to week one with more Ben and Jerry’s than the month before.

***********

There is a room set up with a crib, a rocking chair and a changing table.

sleepywrap bear.

There are tiny freshly washed clothes in a new dresser.

Bought two years ago. I touched it for the first time today.

There are hundreds of diapers and wipes tucked away in a closet.

burp cloths.

There are tiny little baby treasures from all over the country just waiting.

little alouette bird rattle

There is a curly haired imp who is already blaming her little sister for things.

big sissy.

There is a man who is going to be a father to two daughters.

And a girl who still can’t believe this is really happening to her.

mary’s story.

If you’ve been marked by what might have been, you don’t forget. You know the day, the years… you know exactly what anniversary you’d be celebrating…you’ll never forget the…last time cancer was a word about someone else’s life, or the day that changed absolutely everything. It makes the calendar feel like a minefield, like you’re constantly tiptoeing over explosions of grief until you day you hit one, shattered by what might have been.

-from Bittersweet by Shauna Niequist.

I met Mary and her daughter Hadley one year ago when Mary asked me to take pictures for Hadley’s second birthday. (I wrote about that here.)

Mrs. M and Miss H.

March 14 is the start of Mary’s minefield. This is her story…

**********

Jim and I had been trying for awhile to get pregnant.  We found out we were expecting while painting the house we were moving into that fall.  We were both so very, very excited to have a little one on the way.  We didn’t do any of the major testing because we both said it wouldn’t make any difference what we found out, it wasn’t going to change anything.

My best friend gave me a baby shower on February 23.  In my mind, that is the last happy day we had together.  Jim left for a work trip the following Monday.  He called me from the hotel each night, always sounding extremely tired and kind of out of it.  I chalked it up to having too much fun.  He was going to sleep around 8 or 9 each night; usually he stayed up until midnight or later.  When he got home and it seemed as though he was a little sick.

Jim went to work the next week, telling me he wasn’t feeling very good and he hadn’t eaten much.  One day he vomited, however he had never really told me how awful he was feeling.  On Friday, March 14, he asked me to make him a doctor’s appointment.  I didn’t get to it, I had too much to take care of at work so he had to make the appointment himself.  I still feel very guilty about that. The doctor ordered a blood test and Jim told me he’d lost 15 pounds since his last visit to the doctor 5 weeks earlier.  Hadley was due the on March 24th, this was the last weekend to set things up and get the final few things for the nursery, so off I went while he stayed home.  The doctor called…on a Saturday…to give him the results and told him he wanted him to go in for a CAT scan on Monday the 17th.  On Monday afternoon, the doctor called to tell him they’d seen spots on his liver and he needed to go in for a biopsy the next day.

Tuesday he was feeling horrible and when we talked to the the biopsy surgeon he said if Jim had taken an aspirin he would be unable to perform the biopsy. We were going to have to wait.  Wednesday, as I was leaving for work I checked on him. His stomach was swollen and he was in pain.  I called the doctor to get him admitted to the hospital.  Thursday, they did a biopsy and confirmed that it was pancreatic cancer.  Thursday, the 20th.  4 days before our baby was due. The hospital was terribly worried I was going to go into labor.  I was trying to wrap my head around the fact that Jim was probably going to die in less than a year.  On Friday, they discharged him.  If he was going to be hospitalized, I wanted him in the hospital where I was delivering so at least we wouldn’t be separated for Hadley’s birth.

On Sunday the 23rd, I took him to the ER at the hospital where I was supposed to be admitted later that evening for an induction.  I delayed my admittance as long as the doctor would let me, but finally had to go up at around 9 that evening.  Monday, Hadley was born.  Monday night at 7, Jim started vomiting blood.  They discovered he was bleeding into his stomach and if they didn’t operate, he would bleed to death.  The operation had a 50% chance of success.  At that moment, it was possible that our daughter would come into my life on the same day that my husband would go out of my life.

Fortunately, that didn’t happen.

When I was discharged, I moved into a hotel room at the hospital and stayed there for a week and a half.  Other people took care of me.  I was dividing my time between an infant and a sick husband and I’m sure I didn’t serve either one very well.  Thank goodness for my sister who stayed with me for a week and then for my mom who stayed with me the rest of the time.  The rest of my family took care of all the other things that needed to be done.

On Thursday, April 3rd, the oncologist stopped in to see Jim at 10:30 pm.  As she left, she told me that he maybe had a month because the cancer was much more aggressive than they’d thought. Typical Jim…he had to overachieve on the aggressiveness of cancer.  Couldn’t be satisfied to just let it progress at a more controlled pace. Jim was supposed to have an operation Friday morning to drain fluid from his abdomen and relieve some of the pressure.  That was the last thing they could do; hospice was going to take it from there.

Friday morning came and his surgery got delayed…and delayed…and more delayed.  At 11, I told the nurse to call the doctor because we weren’t doing the surgery and Jim just wanted to go home.  I wish I’d told them that at 9, because it was 5 in the afternoon before he was discharged.  Another thing I feel guilty about…

On Saturday, my brothers came to finish replacing the fence around our new backyard.  Jim had built the first fence, but the architectural committee decided they didn’t like it and wanted it down.  Jim held on until my brothers finished the fence.  I’m sure he knew they were done; I’m sure he wanted to stay until he knew I was taken care of on this one last thing.

And then I sat with him.

I told him he could go, that I would be all right, that I was glad we’d had the years we did and that I’d rather have a few good ones than 60 mediocre ones.

I told him thank you and that I would take care of our daughter.

I don’t know if he heard or understood any of it.

I don’t know if it made me feel better.

I do know that I wanted everyone to be gone but I didn’t want to be there by myself.

At 3am on April 6, he was gone.

Hadley was 2 weeks old.

***********

Last year I asked Mary if she’d be willing to tell her story when she was ready. It’s one that deserves to be told and she is a woman who deserves so much support for everything she’s been through. Especially at this time of year. People with stories like Mary’s are around us everyday, everyone is damaged in some way. But everyone is unbelievably strong in some way whether they realize it or not, and strength needs to be recognized.

just when you thought it was the sex and socks that would get you, it turns out to be the swedes.

Dear Newlyweds,

I’d hate to speak for all married people, but given we’ve been doing this for almost a decade and neither of us have smothered each other with pillows in our sleep or ended up on an episode of Dr. Phil or Maury Povich, I dare say I’m somewhat qualified to hand down the following advice to you.

Your fights with your darling doodle lover bug are going to follow yearly themes. Some themes will carry over from year to year, others will end after a year only to reappear several years later.

Your first theme will probably revolve around sex, money or responsibilities. Such as “IT’S YOUR DAMN RESPONSIBILITY TO TAKE YOUR DAMN SOCKS OUT OF THE DAMN LIVING ROOM AND PUT THEM IN THE DAMN HAMPER.”

This fight will most likely follow you forever. Sometimes there will be twists thrown in such as socks shoved under the couch or piled into a heap at the bottom of the stairs…but let me tell you now, there will always ALWAYS be socks. Literally or figuratively. Give up while you’re ahead sister.

Money fights blow. Hard.

Sex fights, well, there’s a blow joke in here somewhere but I’m to afraid to commit to it.

When and if you have a child there will be a new fight. The “who’s life is more important” fight. I hate this one. Yes, I KNOW your job is not all fun and games and in our situation you make the money and I’m grateful for that but I’m the one at home that doesn’t get to pee by myself or eat a meal in peace or have grown up conversations or OH MY GOSH WHERE DID MY PERSONAL SPACE GOOOO???

Above is Cody’s and my 2006-2008 themed fight. There are so many variations on this one your head may very well explode.

The last year and a half have been pretty fight free. I’ve accepted the socks, we’ve accepted our roles in our family and we’ve had the money fight so many times beating a dead horse is an understatement. (It basically comes down to this one, if you (meaning me) don’t spend it, you don’t fight about it. As much.)

Generally speaking we are a very happy married couple. If anyone loses their mind it’s generally me and it’s generally because there’s something else going on (depression, booo or pregnancy crazies, yay!) However tonight I learned that even the most solid couple cannot survive one particular life event unscathed, no matter how good their communication skills are.

Assembling IKEA furniture as a couple is the leading cause of men sleeping on couches and women throwing power tools.

IKEA blinds you to these inevitable facts with ligonberries, meatballs and cramped allen wrench wielding fingers.

You’ve been warned.

love. him.

Mozzi may have a dresser now but she almost lost her parents in the process.

the one about the illusion of perfection and why it really doesn’t do anybody any good.

I spent countless hall pass breaks in the bathroom of my jr. high and high school with my armpits under the hand dryers or neatly folding toilet paper into origami type shapes to tuck into my bra in a desperate attempt to keep up appearances that I didn’t sweat.

But the truth was (and still is) I sweat. And sometimes I sweat so much that it leaves pit stains.

I will never forget my friend Elisabeth admitting to sweating through her shirt during fifth period. Not only did this wave of comfort come over me that I wasn’t the only teenage girl who sweat so much it showed, but other girls who were sitting around silently nodded in agreement.

There have been countless other confessions from countless other women in my life since that moment and I wish I could kiss them all on the nose for their honesty. One confession was from Camille that warned me she had waited so long to pee that she was going to have a release fart once we finally made it to a restroom. My sister was the first one to admit to chin hairs, I think we all remember the friend who alerted us to the fact you can poop while pushing out a baby and nipple hair? Yeah. Nipple hair.

Then there’s the confession that catches you off guard. Like Lindy’s confession of an ingrown armpit hair so deep and painful that she had to have her husband dig it out with tweezers. Up until that point I had never heard of such a thing and like hell if I was going to let someone I wanted to make out with dig an infected hair OUT OF MY ARMPIT.

I nodded along with her harrowing tale and filed it away in the “LINDY’S CRAZY” file.

Two weeks later I ended up with an ingrown armpit hair so hurty that it made blinking painful.

Suddenly Lindy wasn’t so crazy anymore. Suddenly Lindy was onto something brilliant, she was so in love with someone that she trusted him to help her when things got embarrassing. So THAT’S what true love is! (However in full disclosure I had my mom dig out my armpit hair for me. Cody and I were still too new.)

I’m not saying you should sidle up to your seat mate on the public bus and tell them about the tonsillolith you dug out that morning, but there is extreme value in telling your story, the little quirky parts that make you who you are. (One of you just clicked on that tonsillolith link and went ZOMG I’VE HAD ONE OF THOSE!! The rest of you are just squicked and disgusted.)

I spent so long being someone different to so many different people that I never actually took the time to figure out who I really was. The truth is I am a flawed human being who makes mistakes, a lot of them. But I get up, dust myself off and make a joke about it. There’s no sense in lying or glossing over the ugly parts of my life because they have made me who I am today. However it makes perfect sense to share what I learned from the ugly parts, recycling my pain, anguish and embarrassment for the greater good of someone else.

That “flawless” girl you admire? She gets ingrown armpit hairs and sinus infections too. Those girls in the latest Sports Illustrated swimsuit edition? You know at least one of them had to do a shoot on her period. Hollywood starlets get stinky gas and pap smears too. Hunky leading men get back zits and ear hair. And even more comforting? Taro Gomi was right when he said everyone poops. (Unless they’re me, then they just eat kiwis.)

Are you being you or are you being who you think you should be depending on who’s paying attention?

“Today you are You, that is truer than true. There is no one alive who is Youer than You.” -Dr. Seuss